Below is an interview Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Armenia Aimdos Bozjigitov gave to NEWS.am.
By Tatevik Shahunyan
Q.: Mr. Ambassador, what is your assessment of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)?
As OSCE chairing state Kazakhstan played a consolidating role, and the Astana Summit proved to be an embodiment of our achievements, especially in interethnic and religious tolerance and in ensuring regional and global security, disarmament and nonproliferation processes. Four T’s - trust, tradition, tolerance, transparency – were the motto of Kazakhstan’s chairmanship. Tolerance was what Kazakhstan singled out as OSCE chairing state. Considering the OSCE member-states’ opinions on the tasks accomplished during Kazakhstan’s chairmanship, we believe our chairmanship was a success. The very fact of an OSCE Summit successfully held after an 11-year-long interval is evidence of the OSCE’s priority role in ensuring security. The Astana Declaration was approved, which is evidence of the organization retaining its strategic importance. At the Summit, the Kazakh President proposed the expansion of the existing security system over the entire European area – from Vancouver to Vladivostok. We also focused on energy security issues. A proposal was made to create a security analysis center in Kazakhstan.
Q.: Mr. Ambassador, in your opinion, will the OSCE Summit have an impact on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, considering the fact that the issue was highlighted in Astana?
Although the Astana Summit paid sufficient attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, I should note that the Astana format can by no means be a substitute for the OSCE Minsk Group’s arduous work aimed at settling the problem. The positive agreements reflected in the statements by the Heads of Delegation, OSCE MG Co-Chairing States, were consolidated on the margins of the Summit. The most important thing is that, in their statement, the sides were of the unanimous opinion on a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
Q.: The four T’s were the motto of the Astana Summit. How did Kazakhstan, with about 130 ethnic groups residing there, manage to put this motto into practice and prevent interethnic conflicts after the USSR’s collapse?
It is a profound question. Tolerance cannot be practiced by order. It is a historical process. Even before the USSR was formed, Kazakhstan was a multinational state. In the Soviet times, the ethnic groups populating the country were joined by other national groups. So we can say tolerance has been characteristic of the Kazakh people sine it was formed. Besides, our national Leader, President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s balanced policy. He was at the directing the drafting and adoption of our present-day laws, which guarantee equal rights to all the national groups residing in the country. The Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan is working in the country, with all the national communities represented there. The Assembly has the right to delegating its representatives to the Parliament of Kazakhstan. Thus, the national minorities are represented in both the Legislature and Executive.
Q.: Mr. Ambassador, what can you tell about the Armenian community, its role in state construction and Armenian-Kazakh relations?
Much can be said about it. The Armenian community in Kazakhstan is a link in bilateral relations. Armenian settled down in Kazakhstan in ancient times, in the Silk Road times. Armenian merchants were the first settlers, and Armenian settled appeared in the country early in the 19th century. The Armenian community enlarged in the Soviet times. The Armenian community’s representatives work in the country’s legislative and executive bodies. But I would like to make a special mention of the great son of the Armenian people Levon Mirzoyan, who was First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Kazakh SSR. He did very much for the formation and development of Kazakhstan’s economy. His 100th birthday anniversary was celebrated in Kazakhstan by President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s order. Mirzoyan was shot as a Kazakh nationalist during Stalin repressions. So we call him a great son of the Armenian people and a son of the Kazakh people who sacrificed himself. Among the outstanding representatives of the Armenian community of Kazakhstan are big businessmen and workers of culture. Armenians are actively integrated in the country’s socio-political life. Armenian churches and Sunday schools are operating in the country.
Q.: What is your opinion of the level of bilateral relations and what are the prospects for economic cooperation?
Economy is the Achilles’ heel of our relations. In contrast to high-level bilateral interstate relations, economic cooperation leaves to be desired. An analysis of the situation at the Armenian-Kazakh business forum showed that lack of communication is a hindrance to development of economic ties. So we decided to focus on investment and innovation projects rather than on ordinary trade. The Armenian side proposed projects of coal fuel enrichment, use of basalt fiber, which can be used in production of oil pipes. Armenia is now supplying stone-cutting machine-tools to Kazakhstan under one of the projects. About 60 machine-tools are supplied yearly. The Intergovernmental Commission is improving the legal underpinnings for mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation.
Q.: The Kazakhstan-Russia-Belarus customs union is to launch its activities June 1, 2011. What will be the impact on relations within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) – it turns to be a union within union?
The CIS can be considered an organization regulating the relations between the post-Soviet states after the USSR collapsed. No supranational agencies are operating within the CIS. On the other hand, the customs union implies greater economic integration, universal customs, tariff and trade policy. It is a healthy protection for the countries forming the customs union in their relations with the states outside the union.
Q.: May the customs union be enlarged?
Yes, of course. We expect Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to joint it in the near future. Ukraine has taken interest in the project as well. As regards Armenia, it is up to the country to decide. In any case the union is open to all the sides sharing its